Pancreatitis is a pancreatic disease in which the pancreas becomes inflamed. The pancreas produces enzymes to aid digestion and hormones to regulate the processing of sugar. Typically enzymes are not activated until they reach the small intestines; however, when enzymes are activated while in the pancreas, the pancreas becomes irritated and prematurely inflamed causing pancreatitis.
There are two types of pancreatitis: acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis.
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- Acute pancreatitis appears suddenly and can last for days. This sudden inflammation of the pancreas occurs over a short period of time. In the majority of cases, acute pancreatitis is caused by gallstones or heavy alcohol use. Other causes of acute pancreatitis include medications, infections, trauma, metabolic disorders, and surgery. Repeated acute pancreatitis can damage the pancreas and lead to chronic pancreatitis.
- Chronic pancreatitis is the result of ongoing inflammation of the pancreas and most often occurs after an episode of acute pancreatitis. The majority of chronic pancreatitis cases are due to alcohol use.